Well, here’s my trip review as promised.
02 July 2003
Wednesday night I arrived at the international airport in San Jose. After clearing Immigration and Customs, I’m at least expecting something of a lobby area, where there are phones, money exchangers, and a place to arrange some form of transportation. To my surprise, though, after walking through a hallway, I’m unceremoniously dumped out on the street, where there’s a huge crowd of people waving flags and signs, some of which are those with people’s names on them, some of which aren’t. Confused, I stumble out of the crowd, and a guy points me in the direction of the Departures level, where I can find a booth to change my money. Another guy, trying to get me to use his taxi, followed me and waited for me, seemingly refusing to accept that I didn’t need or want a ride.
After changing the money, I went back downstairs to find the Interbus shuttle that I had scheduled to give me a ride from the airport to my hotel. With the help of, well, someone in a reddish orange shirt, we found the Interbus guy and I was saved. While waiting on the side for him to find his two other passenger sets, a group that I couldn’t see arrived in the waiting area, much to the crowd’s delight. I heard cheering, shouting, and drums, and there was plenty of flag waving as well. I would later find out that the football (soccer, for us Americans) team was returning home from abroad and that this was the welcome party.
The shuttle finally came to take me to the hotel, and I grabbed by bag to quickly follow the guy who had grabbed my other bag as he chased down the shuttle. Somewhere between the time I was standing waiting for the bus, and my arrival at the hotel, I lost my jacket, which I would later regret even more. On the plus side, the hotel, Grano de Oro, was beautiful, and I would strongly recommend it to anyone looking for a place to stay in San Jose. It was a small (35 room) hotel made from a converted house, with a nice (and delicious!) terraced patio restaurant inside, and a friendly, English-speaking staff. I was more than happy to settle in and catch some shut-eye.
03 July 2003
Thursday morning I had scheduled Interbus to drive me up to Monteverde. The reservation had warned me that I would be picked up a 7:45 AM, so I woke early and quickly ate a bagel at the restaurant so I would be prepared for their arrival. Unfortunately, 7:45 turned out to be more like 9, so I ended up sitting and waiting in the hotel lobby for over an hour.
The ride up was an experience in and of itself. I spent quite a bit of the trip talking with three other passengers, one named Guy, from New Jersey, and two others. The younger of the other two, probably a year or two younger than I, was down for in Costa Rica for a few weeks, spending time with a friend of his. He had joined up with the other two (Guy and the older… ummm… guy?) to accompany them on a birding trip to Monteverde. They were going to be up there until the older guy’s wife was finished with the church trip she had volunteered for.
The older guy had some interesting stories, too. It turns out that he actually grew up in Liberia, where his parents were a missionary before returning to the States when there was a coup, I believe back in the early 80s. Then he actually returned to Liberia for a number of years as well, where he raised his own family, before returning about 10 years ago to settle in Colorado. He was talking about riding their motorcycle with the whole family (himself, wife and three kids) over dirt and pot-holed roads, seeing oodles of nature, and generally growing up in a different culture.
In the meantime, we had headed off the main highway, which for those here in New Jersey would be like the equivalent of a county road in Hunterdon County, on to the dirt road that leads up to Monteverde. Our bus driver, a really friendly fellow that unfortunately spoke little English, would periodically wave and honk, particularly at the women we saw along the route. One of the other paxs remarked on this toward the end of the ride, saying that he thought this especially curious because he had thought that the woman sitting in the front seat next to him was his wife.
The hotel I stayed at in Monteverde was called the La Colina Lodge, owned, or at least operated, by a pleasant German woman whose name I couldn’t spell right, so I won’t try. She was more than happy to make any arrangements I required, which included the night tour that I took that evening. First, though, I settled in to my room and headed down the road to find some eats, which led me first to the Monteverde Cheese Factory, which has absolutely delicious ice cream (I came back here every day I was in Monteverde). I also stopped in Stella’s bakery for a sandwich before heading back to La Colina for the night tour. (Frommers has all the restaurants I ate at in the Monteverde area outside my hotel listed on-line).
The night tour, at Hidden Valley, took me through several trails over a two hour period with a flashlight and a guide. During this time, we saw a few agouti, rodent-like mammals, some sleeping brown jays, a leaf-cutter ant colony, a tarantula, a walking stick, and a variety of flora as well. After the night tour, I was taken back to my room, where by 9 PM or so, it was time to sleep.